Geert Wilders’s film on the Qur’an, Fitna, which had the whole world holding its breath before its release, has been out for over a week now, and the much-anticipated explosion of worldwide Muslim rage has so far failed to materialize. That rage, however, is heating up: 25,000 people rallied against the film in Karachi on Sunday, and demonstrators in Pakistan and Indonesia have already called for Wilders to be killed. While many continue to hope that that will be the crest of Muslim rage regarding the film, there are indications that these demonstrations are actually only part of a larger strategy.
The 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has condemned the film in “the strongest terms,” saying that it was “a deliberate act of discrimination against Muslims” designed to “provoke unrest and intolerance.” This statement closely follows the OIC’s March meeting in Senegal
, where they developed what AP called “a battle plan” to defend Islam “from political cartoonists and bigots.” Wilders’s film is obviously just the sort of thing they had in mind.
At the Senegal conference, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the OIC’s secretary general, declared: “Muslims are being targeted by a campaign of defamation, denigration, stereotyping, intolerance and discrimination.” The Associated Press reported that OIC “delegates were given a voluminous report by the OIC that recorded anti-Islamic speech and actions from around the world. The report concludes that Islam is under attack and that a defense must be mounted.” Ihsanoglu stated that “Islamophobia cannot be dealt with only through cultural activities but (through) a robust political engagement.”
What kind of robust political engagement? Nothing less than restrictions on freedom of speech, of course. Abdoulaye Wade, the President of Senegal and chairman of the OIC, said: “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy. There can be no freedom without limits.”
These words, and the OIC’s “legal instrument” in general, demonstrate why the foundations of a free society cannot take root where Islamic Sharia law prevails.
Once you declare one group off-limits for critical examination or declare that these people must at all costs not be offended, or that if they are they’re perfectly within their rights to stone, or lash, or imprison, or kill the offender, then you have destroyed free speech. In a free society, people with differing opinions live together in harmony, agreeing not to kill one another if their neighbor’s opinions offend them. Whenever offensive speech is prohibited, the tyrant’s power is solidified. No less in this case, although the tyrant in question is of a different kind.
That’s why all free people should oppose the OIC’s legal initiative. Not only does it threaten the foundations of Western society, but as it would render us unable to analyze it, it is an attempt to leave us defenseless against the jihad threat.
Yet at the United Nations, officials seemed eager to use Fitna as an excuse to enact laws restricting free speech. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon dubbed the film “offensively anti-Islamic” and declared: “There is no justification for hate speech or incitement to violence. The right of free expression is not at stake here.” Or maybe it is: the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, urged those angered by the film to work to limit free speech rights. “There is a protective legal framework,” she noted, “and the resolution of the controversy that this film will generate should take place within it.” She said that legislators “should offer strong protective measures to all forms of freedom of expression, while at the same time enacting appropriate restrictions, as necessary, to protect the rights of others.” And last week, the UN Human Rights Council passed unanimously a resolution proposed by Egypt and Pakistan that calls for the policing of individuals and media reports for negative statements about Islam.
Will it soon be illegal to speak about the use that Islamic jihadists make of Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence and supremacism? If it is, the only ones who will benefit will be the jihadists themselves – advancing the jihadist agenda far more effectively than riots ever could alone. The demonstrations on the one hand and the calls to limit free speech on the other neatly coalesce into a carrot-and-stick strategy. The message to the West is that speech about Islam that the Islamic world dislikes could lead to violent reprisals – but if the West heeds the voice of reason and clamps down on free speech and free inquiry, this violence will melt away. It is a message that all too many Leftist, appeasement-minded European and American leaders will find quite enticing. And that could be the most serious threat of all to our survival as a free people.